I recently saw an episode of House Hunters that annoyed me. The premise of the show, if you haven’t seen it, is someone is looking for a home, whether it be to rent or own, a townhouse, apartment, single family or whatever. They show 3 choices and at the end, the hunter picks one. You then see what they’ve done with it in X amount of days, weeks or months later.
We happened to catch an episode based near Boston, and we watched since we recently visited the areas where they were searching (specifically the town where the “hunter” worked). But it wasn’t necessarily the guy looking for the house that bugged me, but it was his current living situation.
Now granted, I only got to see about 22 minutes (without commercials) of his life back story and search, but it at least gave me something to think about and, yep, an article idea.
Still an adult, yet living with your parents
Now, first off, I’m not going to try not to judge here because my own family has a history of living with their parent(s). I grew up with my sister and parents in my maternal grandmother’s house, and that’s where my parents still live. It’s been a mutually beneficial living situation, for the most part, but has always come with an emotional price. And for the last 9 years or so, my sister has also lived in that house with her 2 children. Yep, 4 generations in one house (and only one bathroom). But I’m not here right now to talk about the dynamics of living together, but rather what bugged me specifically about what I saw on House Hunters.
On the show, there were 2 sisters and a brother, all in their 20s, and all living with their parents. It bugged me a bit that the sisters did their brother’s laundry and the parents were expected to have dinner ready every night when he got home (his own words). But cheers for him for making the leap to find his own place, mostly, per the show, because he was tired of driving 3 hours round-trip to work every day. I would want to move too, but he did have it good. Basically, have maids and cooks at home or go at it on his own to save some time on his commute. I can most certainly see why adult children live at home, but I also like having my own place, even when the responsibility and financial burden can get to you.
But digging deeper, what I heard out of the sisters’ mouths at every home they saw when they accompanied their brother were along the lines of “ooh, we can sit out and tan on this deck” or “we can have awesome parties here“. Those statements triggered anger in me that these “kids” need to grow up! Ok, I understand times are tough (they always are), but when you’re in your twenties and you’re just mooching off your parents so you can live a life of partying, it’s time to grow up. And the parents are just enablers! If you don’t set boundaries and ultimatums (aka Tough Love), you’ll get walked over and taken advantage of, just like these parents.
On these shows, I’ve seen parents very urgently pushing their kids out after they’ve lived at home only a year after losing a job. They’ve given their child a place to stay to get back on their feet and find new employment…but this household was coddling these adult children to the point where they weren’t learning about responsibility and accountability.
Try to tell me that “it’s different when you’re a parent” or “if you had kids, you would understand” and I’ll tell you that you’re just rationalizing your situation. But there are specific instances where rationalization is appropriate, and it’s not just a matter of children overstaying their welcome or not growing up.
When Cross-Generation Co-Habitation is OK
So when do I think it’s OK for generations to live together? Why does my opinion have any weight to it? Let me answer the second question first. As I mentioned, I grew up in a 3-generation house, and now it’s turned into 4 generations. I’ve lived it, and I’ve had to hear about it for the last 30 years. As for the first question:
- When a child (or parent) loses income, but is still able to obtain a new job. In this case, there needs to be clear boundaries and expectations set on day one such as who pays what, who does which chores, how long the person has to search for a job, and what happens after that allotted time. This shouldn’t be a free hotel where you don’t pay rent, don’t try to find a job, let or force someone to clean up after you, etc. All parties are adults and should act like responsible, accountable ones. It’s easy for a parent to feel sorry for their kid and take over parenting chores all over again, but that time has come and gone. This is a roommate situation, not a second chance at being a parent!
- Major sickness. Obviously I wouldn’t turn away my family if they’re legitimately sick and have nowhere to turn. When bills are piling up and one way to tackle them is to chuck the mortgage/rent payment, then you can stamp APPROVED on that application. But I won’t be a servant, and I will make sure that family member isn’t just wallowing in their own misery to drag things out. Perhaps the injury caused the loss of a job, but they’re healed enough they can start looking; well get to it! But overall, family comes first in my book and I’ll do anything for mine (within the law!).
- When they’re leaving an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Again, as family, you need to know you can have a safe haven, especially when kids are involved. But there are some nuances when it’s just your kid (or parent) versus when it’s your kid and their kid(s). I see in the news so often that grandparents have had to become parents again. I think grandparents are done parenting after the transitional phase from high school graduation through the first few years of college, trade school or the work force. After that, when grandchildren are born, then mom and/or dad should take over parenting 100%. When you have kids and you live with your parents, it’s way too easy to just assume you have live-in nannies and that just hurts the kids (too many authority figures), the grandparents (they’ve done their job!) and you (learn responsibility and how to be a full-time parent!).
Those were just some reasons off the top of my head, so if you have other valid reasons, comment below and let me know.
Ultimately, there are always going to be gray areas where co-habitation amongst multiple generations is essential, but quite often, if you dig into it deeper, you might find something like a co-dependent relationship that isn’t healthy. For instance, when an elderly parent lets their kid live at his/her home for free, as long as they help keep up the home, etc., then it’s beneficial to both parties. However, it’s also selfish of the parent to use their kid like that, and it’s also stunting the emotional growth of the adult child. Neither the parent nor the child are learning to become fully independent in this type of situation, and it can turn ugly.
Now, I’ll stop there since my family probably thinks I’ve directed this all at them. I’ll put the disclaimer out there, though, that I wrote this from experience but also based specifically on the House Hunters episode that annoyed me in the first place. If you live in a situation like this now or are very close to someone who does, let me know in the comments below! I want to know the situation, what you think works and doesn’t work and overall, how the individuals can fix what’s happening.